Archive

Large scale document archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the files

Secret no more

 

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/109 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 4) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Aug 9 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 226
PREM19/301 National Health (Overspending by Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Area Health Authority (AHA); removal of powers by Social Services Secretary; AHA resumption of powers following Court ruling) 1979 Jul 31 1980 Mar 3 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 30
PREM19/84 Ireland (Intervention by Governor Carey of New York State) 1979 Aug 1 1979 Aug 24 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 62
PREM19/122 South Africa (Plessey Radar contract - poss breach UN embargo) 1979 Aug 1 1979 Sep 10 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/155 Commonwealth (Heads of Government Meeting in Lusaka, August 1979) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 1 1980 Feb 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 131
PREM19/1956 Sierra Leone (Visits to UK by President Stevens, November 1980, and President Momoh, March 1986: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 9 1986 Mar 5 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/299 National Health (Fluoridation of water supplies; correspondence with Sir Emmanuel Kaye) 1979 Aug 9 1980 Mar 27 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 69
PREM19/1758 Foreign Policy (Review of the British Council) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 9 1986 Jul 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/110 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 5) 1979 Aug 9 1979 Aug 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 355
PREM19/2323 Memoirs (Report of the Committee of Privy Counsellors on Ministerial Memoirs (Radcliffe Report): declarations by Ministers) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 10 1986 Nov 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/384 Yemen Arab Republic (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani, November 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 13 1980 Jan 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 69
PREM19/1653 USA (Visits to UK by Arthur Burns, former Chairman of Federal Reserve Board: meeting with Prime Minister, September 1979) 1979 Aug 13 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 61
PREM19/2215 Home Affairs (The 1981 and 1991 Census) 1979 Aug 13 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/472 Germany (Visit to UK by Chancellor Schmidt, March 1980: Anglo-German Summit) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 13 1981 Apr 17 2012 Feb 22 Secret 229
PREM19/551 Nepal (Visits to UK by King Birendra of Nepal, September 1979 and November 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 15 1981 Apr 24 2011 Dec 30 3 Confidential 141

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